Alistair Carmichael, the head of the Liberal Democrats Scottish election campaign, cannot see the ‘point’ of the Lib Dems supporting a minority Labour government:
“I don’t know what the point of that would be.
The hallmark of 13 years of Labour government has been the sheer pointlessness of it all. They’ve had tremendous opportunities and they’ve blown them all.”
The contradiction in the Liberal Democrats position is becoming increasingly unsustainable. On the one hand the same Guardian article reports that senior Liberal Democrats have ‘ruled out joining a formal coalition’ but on the other Nick Clegg told the Financial Times earlier in the week that the Lib Dems would ensure there was a stable government; a line which clearly implies coalition of some kind.
What is the point of a coalition with Labour? Maybe it would be to not alienate Liberal Democrat voters who a recent poll found are much closer to Labour. Or maybe it would to be consistent in policy. Vince Cable says:
“Rushing into expenditure cuts in 2010-11 would carry a greater risk of precipitating a deeper recession.”
Given that the Conservatives are more likely to call a quick snap election rather than compromise on an emergency budget of cuts; if (and this is a big IF), the Conservatives are a minority government then something has to give; either Clegg’s committment to stability or Cable’s stance against cuts. This is why Conservative Home may well not be that wide of the mark when it says Clegg fears a split.
It is to be hoped that for all the posturing Conservative Home is also right when it says that the instincts of the Liberal Democrat activist base are closer to Labour. Depending on the outcome of the election the Budget may well be the issue that tests those instincts and the unity of the party to the maximum.